11/25/2010 12:56PM

Moreno readies for move into journeyman ranks

Michael Burns
Omar Moreno won the Sovereign Award for apprentice jockey last year and is going for a second Sovereign and perhaps an Eclipse Award this year.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Wednesday marked the final day of jockey Omar Moreno’s apprenticeship, and he had five mounts on the nine-race program here at Woodbine Racetrack. But Moreno’s night ended early as he was suffering from sinusitis and had to book off after his first two rides.

The condition had worsened by Thursday morning, and although Moreno breezed a horse in the morning and wanted to ride, he took the advice of his agent, former jockey Jack Lauzon, and went home to bed.

“He looked terrible,” said Lauzon. “His face was all swollen, right across.”

Moreno can take some comfort in the fact that he departs the apprentice ranks as the runaway leader in both wins and money won in North America.

Through Wednesday Moreno had ridden in 1,002 races this year, winning 144 and finishing second or third another 274 times for total purses exceeding $5.3 million.

Forest Boyce, who is based at Laurel, was the apprentice closest to Moreno in races won with 104, while Angel Serpa, who is riding at Churchill Downs but no longer has the bug, was closest in money won with just under $2.5 million.

For the 25-year-old Moreno, who won his first race at the Alberta “B” circuit track of Grande Prairie in the summer of 2008, the fact that he could walk away with the Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice was a revelation.

“It would be fantastic, amazing,” said Moreno. “Like something I never dreamed would be possible.”

Moreno had served notice here last fall, winning 22 races after moving his tack from Northlands Park in late October and going on to be a decisive winner of the Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding apprentice. Expectations were high this spring and Moreno found himself in the spotlight heading into the Woodbine meeting.

“People probably expect a lot of me and I expect a lot of myself, too,” said Moreno, just prior to his last calls as an apprentice. “But I don’t like getting ahead of myself. I just do the best I can. When good things happen, they happen. Then I can look back, and take a moment to appreciate them.”

With just six days remaining at the meeting following Saturday’s program, Moreno already has plenty to appreciate.

Moreno had won 124 races and $5.2 million in purses here, both totals being good for fourth place in the standings, with his other 20 wins coming at Fort Erie. His highlight reel included stakes wins here with Invitation Only, Citius, and Ariane D, whose victory in last Sunday’s $152,800 Bessarabian was the most lucrative of Moreno’s burgeoning career.

“Overall, I’m very happy with how everybody treated me and how everything has turned out,” said Moreno. “I got to ride a lot of races, and got lots of experience. I feel like I’ve learned a lot, and I’d like to keep learning.”

Moreno will have to continue that learning curve as a journeyman, and believes that he is prepared for the transition.

“Everybody tells me that once you lose your bug, things slow down,” said Moreno. “If that’s the case, I have to expect it. But I want people to put me on a horse because I can ride, not because I can get the weight off.”

The early indications are good as Moreno had been named to ride in four races Thursday and has calls in seven races Friday and six Saturday.

And, after the meeting winds up here next Sunday, Moreno will take what has to be a well-deserved break.

“I’ll go visit my family in Edmonton, and then I’m going to come back and look for a house here,” said Moreno. “I’ll try to stay fit, exercise-wise, and when people start shipping back I’ll go down to Florida and breeze some horses for them.”

In fact, Moreno could find himself in Florida earlier than that because the Eclipse Awards ceremony will be held in Miami on Jan. 26.

Doyle targeting meet-end juvenile stakes

Trainer Mike Doyle has won a pair of $250,000 stakes for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds here this fall, as Celtic Conviction captured the Coronation Futurity and Grand Style prevailed in the Princess Elizabeth. Doyle will be looking to get both of those horses back to the stakes winner’s circle by meet’s end with Celtic Conviction entered in Saturday’s $125,000 Kingarvie and Grand Style on target for the $150,000 Ontario Lassie on Dec. 4.

Both races go at 1 1/16 miles, with the Kingarvie being for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds and the Ontario Lassie for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies.

Celtic Conviction, owned by Doyle in partnership with Bill Duffy, scored by 1 1/4 lengths in the Cup and Saucer over 1 1/16 miles of turf after winning a maiden $32,000 claimer at a mile and 70 yards on the main track. Back on the main track at 1 1/8 miles in the Coronation Futurity, another $250,000 race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds, Celtic Conviction raced within range early but faltered to finish ninth of 11 under Emile Ramsammy.

“He got in a bit of trouble a couple of times, according to Emile,” said Doyle. “He might like turf better but he likes Polytrack well enough, no question, for us to give this a go. It’s the last race for him this season; we couldn’t bypass it.”

Grand Style, owned by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., made her first two starts on the turf at Saratoga but then was shipped here to Doyle with the Canadian-bred program in mind.

That move paid off when Grand Style took the 1 1/16 mile Princess Elizabeth after finishing third in a one mile and 70-yard maiden race, which was her local debut.

“She’s doing great,” said Doyle, who plans to work Grand Style on Saturday in preparation for the Ontario Lassie.

Doyle plans to be here until they turn out the lights next Sunday, but then he will be heading to Florida and Palm Meadows, where he has six stalls.

“I’ll have some young horses I’ll be trying to get ready for next year,” said Doyle. “And, I might race a little bit at Gulfstream.”